Edna Lugo, 38, was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was 31 after seeing a doctor about unusual cramps and bleeding. It wasn't until she became ill that she discovered there was a history of cervical cancer in her family.
“I'm Puerto Rican. It's like a taboo. Nobody wants to talk about anything,” she says. Lugo believes that because HPV is an STD, people are afraid to be considered promiscuous. “Even to this day, people ask if I had a lot of partners,” she says. She believes the issue of sex among adults can be very difficult to broach, let alone between adults and children.
This kind of silence can be deadly. Though cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, every year, about 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed, and about 4,000 will die as a result. Cervical cancer is also the second most common type of cancer among women worldwide.
Latinas and African-American women in the United States have the  highest rates and are most likely to die than any other group. While Latinas consistently had the highest rates,  a report by the Centers for Disease Control updated in August 2013 shows that cervical cancer is now slightly more common among African-American women.
Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, says the reason for the shift is still uncertain, and that there is still much more work to be done to prevent the disease among this population. She says cervical cancer is almost 100 percent preventable.
According to Planned Parenthood, HPV and cervical cancer are often misunderstood, which can be contributing to the high rates.
How It Works

High-risk HPVs ( human papillomaviruses) cause virtually all  cervical cancers in addition to other kinds of cancers. Genital HPV infections are so common that most sexually active people who are not vaccinated should expect to be infected at some point in their lives. According to the CDC, about 79 million Americans are currently infected. Most people who have or have had HPV don't even know it.
Cervical cancer is caused by certain strains of  HPV. Most infections don't cause any harm and require no treatment. The body’s immune system usually clears the disease naturally. However, if the HPV is left untreated, the abnormal cells it causes can progress into cervical cancer in some women. It takes years for the cancer to develop.
A pap test can find pre-cancerous cell changes of the cervix. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women begin getting pap tests when they turn 21. Under  revised recommendations released in 2012, women should have a pap every 3-5 years, depending on their age.
Socioeconomic Factors

How could it be that a completely preventable disease continues to kill Latinas? According to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Latinas are less likely than other groups to have access to employer-sponsored health coverage or private plans. Sixty-six percent of immigrant women don’t have access to employer-sponsored coverage. The Affordable Care Act will be providing more Latinas access to healthcare, but many, particularly undocumented women, will continue to be uninsured.
Latinas in Texas face even greater challenges. NLIRH and the  Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) recently issued a report,  Nuestro Texas, illustrating that recent policies in Texas have had a negative impact on women living in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the poorest regions in the U.S. and home to many Latinos and immigrants. The rates of cervical cancer for women in this region are 19 percent higher than the national average and 11 percent higher than the national average for Latinas. Women living in counties on the U.S.  Mexico border are also 31 percent more likely to die of cervical cancer compared to women in non-border counties.

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